Cornelian cherry, Cornus mas is not a cherry, although it has cherry-like fruits. The common name comes from the term “cornel” used in the UK to describe the wood, fruit and plant.
According to its Wikipedia entry, “Cornus mas, ‘Male’ Cornel, was named so to distinguish it from the true Dogberry, the ‘Female’ Cornel, C. sanguinea, and so it appears in John Gerard’s Herbal.
In the landscape, this small tree provides late winter interest in the form of its bright small yellow flowers, borne on bare stems before the leaves. In late summer tart, astringent berries ripen, useful for jam and jelly. The plant is used medicinally in China, distilled for spirits in Eastern Europe, and the wood is said to be very hard, dense and useful. Its popularity for horticulture probably outweighs the chemical and craft possibilities in the Pacific Northwest, but that’s not to say those uses are any less interesting or important!
See two lovely and well-shaped specimens blooming now (March 2013) along the path to West Greenlake Drive North at the NW corner of the park. The Center for Urban Horticulture sports several on the Mary Gates Drive (north) side of the main building.